Classmates set to square off

The 2004 draft class was a special one. It drew comparisons to 1983, when Hall of Fame players John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were all selected. There were four surefire first-round picks in 2004: Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and J.P. Losman. The latter two will square off this Sunday, when the 9-2 Chargers travel into Buffalo to take on the 5-6 Bills.

"I don't think any of the four of us spent a lot of time with each other," Losman admitted. "There was a competitive niceness about us. We were trying to be cordial and nice to each other, but we were scratching to come out.

"It's fun to see what happens – that's your class. There's a lot of guys I'd like to play against. Brett Favre is probably the one I cherish right now. I'm just focusing what they're doing. I think it's fun, it's exciting for fans. I think we follow our class a little more than any others of course. It's cool to see what people said about us then and what's happening now and where we're going and who went where? All those types of things. Who was right and who was wrong? Those are fun things. Right now, you have to take care of yourself and focus on yourself."

Rivers, still in his first season as a starter, looks as though he may be the best of this talented quartet. He has completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,440 yards, with 15 touchdowns against just six interceptions. However, Rivers is coming off his worst game as a pro. Against Oakland, he completed less than half of his passes for the first time this season, throwing for just 133 yards with one pick and no scores.

"It wasn't our best effort. It's the sign of a great team when you can have a guy that touches the ball every play not play very good and still win," said Rivers, referring to his own struggles.

Losman is quietly having a solid season of his own. He has completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 2,007 yards, with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Those numbers may be a bit lower than those posted by Rivers, but are still impressive considering Losman doesn't have LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates to boost his stats for him.

The Bills do have some emerging offensive talent – more than enough to challenge the Chargers this weekend. Lee Evans' 880 receiving yards are the eighth most in the league. Willis McGahee has struggled with injuries this season, but he was a top-ten rusher just a season ago.

The Bills offense has sparked the team's current two-game winning streak. That hot streak could be in jeopardy this week, as a very agitated Shawne Merriman is set to return from his steroids suspension and plans on hitting the field – and Losman – with a vengeance.

"I will be anxious waiting for Sunday to get here, but Sunday I will be fine," Merriman said. "When you are taken away from the game you have that much more hunger."

If Losman is able to continue his winning ways against Merriman & Co., it will go a long way towards earning him the franchise-quarterback label that Rivers has been wearing since week one.

But not only does Losman have to worry about avoiding Merriman's rush - he also must outscore Tomlinson's offense. That won't be easy, as Tomlinson vows to be ready.

"This is a game like Miami last year," he said. "They are a team that is right there, solid – if you are not ready to play they will embarrass you. We better have our stuff right and be ready to play."

This figures to be a good game, and a great showcase of two stellar, young quarterbacks.


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